Photo of Greta Thunberg by Anders Hellberg – collage by Harry Pollard
Harry Pollard discusses teen climate activist’s achievements and how her Asperger’s is received
Twelve years – that’s how long we have to prevent or, at least, lessen a global climate catastrophe.
We are already feeling the effects – deadly fires are ravaging the amazon and even in the arctic, our coral reefs are dying, and our summers are getting hotter. July 2019 alone has been the hottest month on record. If no action is taken, we face mass extinctions, global food and water shortages, and the collapse of civilisation as we know it, possibly as soon as 2050.
While it’s fantastic that the British government has declared a climate emergency, until definite action takes place I believe we must continue to pressure politicians. Now is the time to spread awareness and advocate unprecedented changes to society ourselves.
Thankfully, the campaign against climate change is gaining traction. Greta Thunberg has become one of the most prominent climate activists globally, famous for her role in sparking the ‘School strike for climate’ movement in 2018. These strikes began in Sweden with Thunberg alone, but as a result of her passion and persistence, students across the world have come out to join her protests.
Since 2018, she has participated in UN conferences, delivered speeches at high-profile events (such as during the Extinction Rebellion protests earlier this year), earned a Nobel Peace Prize nomination and even collaborated with the English indie band ‘The 1975’.
It is also no secret that Greta is on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s syndrome – though some may class this as a disability, she sees it as quite the opposite. In an interview with Nick Robinson of BBC Radio 4, she described how Asperger’s helps her ‘see things in black and white’.
“I don’t fall easily for lies, I can see through things”. “It makes me different, and being different is a gift, I would say”. She also added that if she had been “like everyone else”, she may not have been interested in the climate at all.
Despite her achievements, Greta is frequently on the receiving end of criticism, with her autism being a common target for personal attacks. Andrew Bolt of The Herald Sun described her as being “deeply disturbed”, with “so many mental disorders”, and chairman of the CO2 Coalition, Patrick Moore tweeted “Greta = evil”. Brexit campaign donor Arron Banks joked about ”freak yachting accidents” when Greta recently sailed across the Atlantic to attend UN climate summits in New York. Some have even compared her to the young girls used in Nazi propaganda!
As somebody on the autistic spectrum myself, I think it’s appalling that some climate sceptics feel attacking Thunberg based on her condition is acceptable
Greta herself tweeted that she is “indeed ‘deeply disturbed’ about the fact that these hate and conspiracy campaigns are allowed to go on and on and on, just because we children communicate and act on the science”.
She also recently added that her motivation for being public about her diagnosis is that “I know many ignorant people still see it as an ‘illness’ or something negative”.
As somebody on the autistic spectrum myself, I think it’s appalling that some climate sceptics feel attacking Thunberg based on her condition is acceptable. So many well-respected people are on the spectrum!
Just a few examples include singer Susan Boyle, actor Anthony Hopkins and author HP Lovecraft, possibly even Einstein, Newton, Darwin and Mozart! It’s certainly reassuring to know that many people with autism are successful and ground breaking in their respective fields, and are continuing to lead the way.
Greta Thunberg truly is an inspiration, compelling young people to fight against climate change, an effective influencer for people on the autistic spectrum, for students, and for our society as a whole. Even in the face of harsh criticism, she continues to advocate for climate justice.
I leave you with one of Greta’s tweets:
“When haters go after your looks and differences, it means they have nowhere left to go. And then you know you’re winning!”